Thursday, June 7, 2018

Fired but enriched, pocketwise

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

With the series of firings of high government officials and bureaucrats suspected of corrupt practices or hard-to-explain personal use of government funds, one can’t help having afterthoughts about the outcomes of their cases and the direction of their lives. Have cases been filed against these persons? Did they get off the hook or end up in the slammer? How much of the government funds — the people’s money — that they allegedly used for personal enjoyment was recovered or voluntarily returned?
Or did the fired and fried government officials just leave their juicy posts as ordered and walk away in haste? Disgraced, yes, but feigning innocence and none the worse for wear despite the swirl of accusations and body of evidence.

Our jaws fall to our feet when we learn of staggering amounts of money involved in questionable deals that smell of rot. Then we feel somewhat mollified when the culprits are identified, tarred and feathered in the media, when we learn that Sec./Mr./Ms. Sticky Fingers have had their comeuppance, been exposed and fallen from grace. But was justice really served in favor of the tax-paying citizenry?

What happens after heads have rolled? Case in point is that of acting PhilHealth chief Celestina Ma. Jude de la Serna, who was discovered to have incurred huge travel expenses and hotel bills. The Commission on Audit (COA) raised a red flag. Not a Manila resident, De la Serna traveled regularly from Bohol, her home province, to Manila and lived in a hotel while serving as PhilHealth acting president and chief executive officer. She was reported to have received huge allowances despite notices of disallowance in past years.

De la Serna got the boot several days ago and was replaced by another acting chief. Some might say to her: But, hey, it was good while it lasted. And perhaps even after?

In the case of the jaw-dropping P60-million advertising deal that led to the sacking of former tourism secretary Wanda Teo and subalterns in her department, was the money returned? And even if it was returned by her brother’s media outfit as promised, is everything back to, uh, okay? End of story?

While these recent cases are not as staggering compared to the earthshaking scam that involved billions, spawned by one Janet Lim Napoles (now behind bars) in cahoots with politicians, these recent ones are just as eyebrow-raising because they are easy to grasp and close to home. Like what the COA did, just follow the money.

The clever are able to set up labyrinthine trails that can throw off track even those with the smelling power of blood hounds. But not for long. The Marcoses were experts in covering their tracks, but eventually their evil schemes were laid bare. But, hey, there is more to uncover out there.

While at this, I call to mind the case of Acsa Ramirez, the brave whistleblower who exposed a P432-million tax and money-laundering scam, but got the shock of her life when she was suddenly presented as an accused. Ramirez suffered for years before she was cleared, no thanks to bumbling investigators, ingrates who, like former president Gloria Arroyo, could not even get themselves to thank Ramirez and apologize. (

After what Ramirez went through, who would then muster the courage to blow the whistle on wrongdoing in the bureaucracy? There is rot and there is rot, and it only takes a lowly government bureaucrat to expose it.

I know someone in a government office who, as a newbie, already saw how her seniors could play around with per diems, allowances and expenses for out-of-town trips and get away with them. They would buy themselves take-home gifts charged to their department, their way of lining their wardrobes, closets and cupboards. This person had to glumly take her share and give them away, so as not to be seen ever using them. How’s that for a department that is supposed to spread good values?

If questioned, just return the money? If fired, you have enriched yourself anyway. Henceforth you can enjoy the nest you have feathered with people’s money, and bask in the memory of the days of wine and roses. Bad. Bad.#